No one will listen to us until we listen to ourselves.Marianne Wilson
For so many of us, the word boundary causes great anxiety. Often, society tells us that our job is to always accommodate others, even at the expense of our own peace. But in the time of coronavirus, school closures and flu season that have run right into the holidays, many of us have had to think about how to set new and improved boundaries when it comes to protecting our families. This can be tough for many reasons, but mostly because we want to spend time with and welcome those we love into our space whenever possible.
But countless families across our country have a member with an underlying health issue or a small child. Even those in perfect health can face long-term impacts from COVID-19, and don’t want to take the risk of exposure. But, they may also feel really bad about saying no to family & friends who want to see them. This has really made me think about ways that boundaries play a role in our lives. I have some practical tips to share that will make setting and maintaining your boundaries a little easier this holiday season.
1. Know your why
If you are unsure about why you’ve decided not to do something, it will be hard for you to stand firm in your decision. But once you have committed to your position and know your why, you will be able to firmly share your position with confidence. You might say, “we’re not having visitors over to see the baby until flu season and COVID-19 are under control. We want to protect her.”
2. Remind yourself that you are doing the right thing
If you start to feel bad about your choice and need a reminder that you’re doing the right thing, use a journal or sticky note to write down your why and a few affirmations that can help you remember it. One affirmation that I find helpful is “I always do the right thing when I honor and protect my family.”
I always do the right thing when I honor and protect my family. TweetBrittany in Bloom
3. Suggest safe, alternative activities
When you are setting boundaries around contact, it may be helpful to suggest alternatives that will keep everyone safe. Zoom, Netflix and Facetime have all been useful for bridging the gaps between families during the pandemic. You can find a list of great, socially-distanced activities for families here.
4. Do not apologize for setting a boundary
When you know that you are doing the right thing for your family, you do not need to weaken your statement down by saying “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.” You are allowed to decide what is best for your family without feeling bad about it. In case you forget, no (with a period at the end) is a complete sentence.
5. Give others time to process your answer without taking their feelings personally
Sometimes, hearing no will be very hard for people. And that is okay. That is something for them to work through, not for you to feel guilty about. If the person needs additional time to process their feelings, allow them the time and space to do so. If this means allowing them to come back to you when they are ready to talk again, that is fine. This may be the healthiest move for everyone involved. It may not be easy, but sometimes we have to make decisions that take us out of our comfort zone. It is, however, a major part of responsible adulting, so all will be well.
One of my favorite quotes on this topic is from Marianne Williamson. She says, “No one will listen to us until we listen to ourselves.” Allow this quote to empower you to have tough conversations. It may not be enjoyable, but the more confident we become in using our voice, the more others will learn to accept it.